In a Merger of FCB and Draft, Shades of Digital

Interpublic Group has confirmed it will merge two of its largest agency units into a single entity with capabilities across a broad spectrum of advertising and marketing services, including interactive.

As anticipated, IPG’s Draft and FCB units will become Draft FCB Group, bringing under one roof prominent digital holdings such as R/GA, Draft Digital and FCBi.

R/GA and FCBi, which have long retained their own leadership and branding, will keep that autonomy, whereas the more tightly integrated Draft Digital may experience structural or identity changes. Exactly what form those transformations could take will be determined in the next 90 days by an integration committee.

Executives did not directly address how interactive figured in their decision to combine the units, characterizing the move generally in terms of bolstering traditional advertising with more data-driven promotional and marketing services.

But the Web connection is plain. Draft’s fortunes have risen with the Internet, at least partly due to its rigorous focus on behavior and research, whereas the more troubled FCB’s historic strength is its focus on traditional brand advertising. FCB’s most valuable contribution to the pairing is perhaps its global presence, which should help win business for Draft business components.

Draft founder and CEO Howard Draft will helm the new company, and FCB worldwide CEO Steve Blamer will step down after a period of integration. FCB’s Jonathan Harries will guide creative vision as worldwide chief creative officer.

The move will create some conflicts for the new company that could threaten some interactive revenue. For instance, big online spenders Nokia and Motorola will now be serviced by the same agency. IPG acknowledged the potential snares in its statement.

“Despite the flexibility that the new organization will provide clients and the extended period before full integration, the possibility of certain client conflicts cannot be ruled out. The management of both agencies has and will continue to communicate regularly with all clients as it relates to the benefits of the merger,” the company noted.

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